Robotech, In Brief: Space Fold

“Somehow we seem to have drifted out into deep space, and that means we’re in deep trouble.”

Read my 365 Days of Robotech write-up on “Space Fold” from last summer here.

WHAT HAPPENS: Roy Fokker changes course, returning to Earth to rescue Rick and Minmei from the alien forces still swarming over Macross Island. As the SDF-1 moves in to dock with two cannon fodder orbital space platforms, the vastly superior Zentraedi forces perform a massive laser bombardment that tears the man-made space fleet to scrap. The battle fortress retreats to Earth, and as Rick tries to impress Minmei by returning her to the island in his fanjet racer, Captain Gloval gives the word to activate an untested device — the SDF-1’s hyperspace fold drive — to escape from their alien pursuers. While Gloval’s plan is to jump to lunar orbit, instead the jump takes them to the orbit of Pluto. Worse, not only has the fold system vanished in transit, stranding the SDF-1 in deep space, but the fold effect brought a now-frozen Macross Island with them, as well as the two offshore aircraft carriers.

Roy Fokker original production cel, from my personal animation art collection.

Roy Fokker original production cel, from my personal animation art collection.

THOUGHTS: There are three things that save this poor, misbegotten-looking episode from disaster. First, the strength of the original designs that somehow manages to shine through even when the robots look like amorphous blobs and the characters’ chins change shape when they turn their heads. Second, setting aside a few weak scenes where Greg Finley (Captain Gloval) and Iona Morris (Claudia Grant) overact based on the animation they’re presented with (which is fair play to them; generally they’re much better than this, but their performances match the visuals), the acting is largely quite good; let me reiterate what I said last summer, that Dan Woren as Roy Fokker just kills all the way through Fokker’s return to the SDF-1 with Rick and Minmei in tow. “Oh, she’s mad!” It cracks me up every single time. The third, of course, is the dramatic strength of the story, with desperate people making reckless moves: Gloval’s belligerent order to activate the fold system despite Claudia’s citations of regulations and her level-headed protests that it hasn’t even been tested yet, and on a smaller scale Rick’s attempt to impress Minmei by trumping Fokker’s invitation to return her to her family. The equal parts terror and comedy of Rick’s attempt to hide the truth of their perilous situation after the fold is also pure gold.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: Well, this certainly marks the first and last time the SDF-1 activates its fold drives. It also includes the first mention of Chief Engineer Emil Lang, who only goes on to be really important if you read any of the sequel/spin-off novels and comics. On a real world level, this is the first episode of Robotech animated by Korean sub-contractor Anime Friend, the first of many throughout all three generations. You can spot an Anime Friend episode by how wildly off-model everything suddenly looks and how little shading everything suddenly has. Also, animation errors abound throughout the episode, including serious confusion as to whether the cockpit of Rick’s Veritech has been removed, whether it has been attached to Roy’s Veritech’s arm hardpoint or not, and whether or not Roy’s Veritech dropped its gun pod. Also, aircraft carriers in space before the SDF-1 folds, a mistake so obvious that pedantic fanboys had to come up with ludicrous military testing programs to explain it away.

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Back to being a cocky hothead, though he does start to panic when he realizes he and Minmei have mysteriously found themselves in deep space.

DOES MINMEI SING? No, but she does do a cute little “Wow!” when she puts on Rick’s flight helmet.